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The Berkshires

Local farmers waiting for new farm bill

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Albany/HV: Local farmers waiting for new farm bill
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Congress extended the farm bill, preventing milk prices from skyrocketing to $6 a gallon. But as Madeleine Rivera explains, some farmers are looking for more concrete solutions.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Many farmers were hoping to ring in 2013 with a new farm bill. What they got was an extension of the old one.

"I think the farm bill tries to do a lot of different things and support a lot of different aspects of agriculture and I don't think where that money is going is always necessarily in the best interest of the country as a whole or in agriculture in the country as a whole," said Topher Sabot, manager of Cricket Creek farm in Williamstown.

The extended farm bill was part of the fiscal cliff negotiations and kept milk prices from rising to $6 to $7 a gallon. But it's not the answer that farmers were hoping to see.

"Obviously, the farm bill is just one of the things left to the last minute," said Sabot.

The extension keeps some parts of the old bill, including some crop insurance and direct payments which cost taxpayers billions of dollars. But it has some holes, lacking a stable dairy policy and disaster aid for agriculture and livestock.

"Most farms are run on extremely tight margins. So if something unexpected happens, there's often not a cushion to fall back on. So farms are often very dependent on the government when there are major disasters, and we've seen a lot of those in this country in just the past year," said Sabot.

The failure to pass a new farm bill by the new year is a reminder of the political roadblocks that happens too often in Washington.

"I think it's a real shame and there are some issues that should not be partisan issues. Nationwide, I think people often forget that this is where our food comes from and it needs to be a constant priority," said Sabot.

The extension lasts until September and farmers will be watching until lawmakers come up with a five year, $500 billion bill to replace the old one. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP